Two stills from my new iClone project

A couple of stills from my first 10-minute iClone short. It’s perhaps a little ambitious to go for a ‘name’ author and for a ten minute length, on the first try, but I think I can do it. Can anyone guess which public-domain short story is forming the basis of the film?

Click on the picture to see the full-sized version.

Click on the picture to see the full-sized version.

Stylistically, the inspiration for the silhouette film style is Jasper Morello via Lotte Reiniger. With a dash of British woodcut and wood engraving.

Cartoon cel-shading in iClone

Just posted from Mitchell Santine Gould of, a beautifully-voiced iClone video-clip animation of the great American poet Walt Whitman. It’s not on YouTube, sadly — so my WordPress-hosted blog won’t allow embedding. Just click on the picture…

This is interesting not just for the fine voice-acting, but also for the cartoonish cel-shading. Mitchell writes…

“I’ve developed techniques which allow me to generate cel shading in Reallusion’s iClone”

Sounds fascinating. Might these become available soon as a retail set of shaders/special-textures?

Woodland video backgrounds for iClone 4

Since iClone 4 can run video-file backgrounds behind your characters and props, I was thinking about which open-world games allowed the player to remove all or nearly all the interface elements from the screen, leaving a clear widescreen view of the game world. The best and most usable which came to mind is the free game TheHunter, which is set in a beautifully realised photo-realistic woodland / island environment. This free game allows you to remove all interface elements, apart from the top of an animated hand holding a camera. But this is a section of the screen which (for relatively static shots) might easily be covered by an alpha-channel billboard showing a close-up of a bush. Or by the ground plane. The Hunter is free, but is no piffling little Flash game — it’s a proper 3D game-world that runs at 50fps x 1920 x 1200 quite happily.

Of course, any video footage you might record from the game with FRAPS would not be royalty-free. But for amateur non-commercial fan films I doubt you’re going to have mega-corporate lawyers hounding you on YouTube (although don’t take my word for it, please). TheHunter is a small indie joint-venure enterprise. The UK co-partner who developed it recently had severe financial problems, and they’ve just sold the game to a new owner who’s going to carry on running it as an indie venture. The other co-partner is the Scandinavian indie developer of the forthcoming open-world game Just Cause 2 — and frankly I’m not sure if they’ve also sold their stake in TheHunter ahead of the launch of their new action blockbuster, or not.

Anyway, you now know the facts and the risk of using such footage is entirely yours. But it’s certainly a lovely-looking game, it’s free-roaming, and the woodland soundscapes are also very fine. One of its advantages over the lush SpeedTree woodlands of Oblivion is that these woods don’t look as “computer gamey” as those in Oblivion do. Fantasy fans who plan to make machinima/iClone hybrids should certainly be taking a look at it. All that’s really lacking in the game is more variety in the weather — but there’s a realistic real-time night/day cycle. Some genuine in-play screenshots from The Hunter

I’d love to see the new owners permit royalty-free usage of video and screenshots in non-commercial fan films. Maybe something along the lines of Microsoft’s much-acclaimed plain-English legal agreement with fans on game-based fan productions?

Stanford Law School: videos from the ‘Play Machinima Law’ conference

I was pleased to learn that Stanford Law School held a two-day Play Machinima Law conference (April 24th-25th 2009) on the legal nuances of game-based machinima — amid a panic among corporate lawyers, which had led to take-down notices flying around YouTube.

I was off doing other stuff in early 2009, so it was useful to see that the entire proceedings are now online as video. The files that load the videos are in the little-known Quicktime .qtl format (I’ve never heard of it before, and neither has my PC — it’s probably a Mac thing?), so you may need to manually associate .qtl files with Media Player Classic (aka QuickTime Alternative) before you can launch them.

‘Lawyer meets machinima’ by TheVader74.

SmartSound – free royalty-free music that morphs

What if you could have a royalty-free symphony orchestra playing on your soundtrack? Well, I certainly plan to have one on my forthcoming ten-minute short. But it’s to be provided by SmartSound Quicktracks, not a room full of people in evening dress. SmartSound is available as a free plugin for the video-editing software Adobe Premiere (and also works with my preferred editing option, Premiere Elements — from v4.0 onwards). For a freebie, SmartSound has some very impressive features. Like automatically re-composing your chosen music to fit the length of your clip, and adding a smooth ending. And it can also subtly adapt your selected track on-the-fly, to change the tempo or mood. The full spec sheet is here. And the free version of the plugin comes with ten unrestricted sample tracks — which may be all you need for your 3 minute iClone masterwork. If you’re making a longer epic, it seems that the themed Richard Band Vols. 1-7 series of retail expansion-packs is the cream of the royalty-free crop for SmartSound.

The SmartSound dialogue boxes can be a little tricky to located in Premiere once you install it, so here are some screenshots from Premiere Elements version 4. Ensure you’re on Edit / Media / Project / and then left-click on the little white icon…